SEC MD17 2 Notebook: Florida player status unclear

UF receiver Antonio Callaway
UF receiver Antonio Callaway's status for the season opener remains unclear. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer/file]

HOOVER, Ala. — Florida coach Jim McElwain offered little clarity when asked to update the status of starting wide receiver Antonio Callaway and incoming freshmen receiver James Robinson at SEC Media Days on Tuesday.
Callaway could be facing a possible suspension from the opener against Michigan after being cited for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana earlier this summer. Robinson was not allowed to enroll in the Summer B semester due to some academic issues and his status for fall enrollment is uncertain.
“So far, he’s been doing the things that have been set forth, so we’ve got about eight Saturdays (before the opener),” McElwain said of Callaway. “There’s a lot of things that a lot of guys have to do moving forward, and I mean at this juncture there’s no reason to even speculate. He’s going through some things right now and so far he’s been doing a good job.”
Robinson’s fate is in the hands of the NCAA’s Eligibility Center.
“That’s something that’s (up to the) NCAA and a lot of that stuff. So we’ll see what happens there,” McElwain said.

Beefing up the sked
McElwain said the plan is to add more big-time opponents to future UF schedules. The Gators open the 2017 season Sept. 2 against Michigan in Arlington, Texas.
McElwain said opening with a team of Michigan’s caliber is a positive.
“I do think they understand there isn’t a preseason game,” he said. “I think they understand it’s going to happen right away. And yet, it’s something we’ll continue to do. I’m a believer in it. I think the University of Florida, I think Florida fans, they deserve those kind of games every year. That’s something we’ll do.
“Time will tell just how ready we are. I think the biggest thing for us is to make sure we’re still focusing on what we need to do to get better. And when we get to game week, let’s start preparing for it and realizing, ‘You know what, this is a real opportunity.’ “

Tiger by the tail
As expected, McElwain was asked several times about UF scheduling LSU for Homecoming this season and the growing rivalry between the Gators and Tigers.
The decision to make the Oct. 7 LSU game homecoming was made by the university and the student senate last week.
“No. In fact I just heard about it when I got off the plane back from Montana,” McElwain said when asked if he scheduled the Tigers for Homecoming. “First I heard about it. You don’t understand that I’m not Coach Saban at Alabama. I don’t get (to make) those decisions. That’s something the school does based on the alumni. I heard that this question might be coming up. So I said, ‘Who are we playing for Homecoming?’ So, I guess we’re playing them.”
McElwain downplayed the notion that the UF-LSU rivalry has intensified over the past year.
“I think we all want to probably make something more out of it than what it is,” he said. “I just know this, going through this league, there’s a lot of rivalries. And there’s a lot of teams when that game comes up that’s the biggest game there is. So, I don’t see it as that, and yet I hope our guys view all those opponents that, look, we’ve got to get up and go.”

Dual-threat adjustment?
McElwain said too much is being made over how a dual-threat quarterback (Malik Zaire) would fit in the offense.
“It’s interesting, dual threat,” he said. “The whole dual threat, pocket threat, whatever threat, I just know I like that position to be a threat. In whatever they can do. We’ve been fortunate to be around some of those guys in the past and we’ll adapt to what they do best as well.”

Smart shot
Georgia coach Kirby Smart was knocked a little off balance at the podium by a question about the Bulldogs having 21 starters returning. But he quickly recovered and then managed to take a veiled shot at Tennessee coach Butch Jones.
“Twenty-one starters returning? Wow,” Smart said. “That is a new one for me. I can’t figure it out. I think we had three senior offensive lineman (last season). So, that math doesn’t work there.
“But last year, we had a coach tell us that we had the best talent. And he had six players taken in the first four rounds after he said we had better talent than he did and we had one player drafted. Sometimes I don’t know where those messages come from.”

Stay back, coaches
The NCAA has adopted a new rule whereby coaches will be hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for going onto the field to dispute an official’s call. The rule goes into effect this season.
“We have talked to every coach about it. If a coach comes out onto the field of play, so in the green grass, and protests an officiating decision, it’s an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct foul,” said Steve Shaw, the SEC’s director of football officials. “The goal is not to flag coaches, not in any way. The goal is really to change coaching behavior, keep them on the sideline.
“If they stay in the white, if they stay on the boundary, they’ll be given all of the latitude that they’ve gotten over all these years, but if they come out onto the field of play, then it’s going be an unsportsmanlike conduct foul.”
The coaches are going to have to adjust, Smart said.
“Certainly, all us coaches have gotten our assignments,” Smart said. “Our coaches are going to hang on to us and make sure we don’t go across that line. I’m obviously concerned about it at a critical time, but it is the rule, and we follow the rules. And I think as head coaches we’ve got to set a good example, and that’s what the rules are in place for.
“It would be a challenging job to manage that, especially at critical times in the game. You’d hate to see a game decided by something like that. But it’s the rule. We’ve been briefed on it, and we all got to adhere to it.”